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How to evaluate charities

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

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The main goal is to use both GiveWell and Charity Navigator to find effective causes that resonate with you. First, we need to understand the differences between the tools. Because the tools complement one another we will use both tools, donating $1 each to two different causes.


First, GiveWell focuses on a handful of causes that it finds are the most effective based in hard evidence, in terms of "bang for your buck," transparency and scalability. However, the causes GiveWell recommends are all foreign, based outside of the West, and are limited to medical and poverty causes. While giving abroad and to medical or poverty causes is extremely effective participants might be more interested in funneling their donations to local causes or to other categories such as arts, education, environment, etc.





To fill the gap Charity Navigator can be used to find both local and international causes across every imaginable category. The drawback is that many causes found on Charity Navigator do not have rigorous evidence that shows whether their cause is effective in accomplishing what they say they do.


However, Charity Navigator considers financial health & accountability and transparency of causes, which are still constructive. For example, Charity Navigator tracks a cause's administrative overhead. If the overhead percentage is high then potentially fewer funds are spent on the cause itself. However, a cause could still be remarkably effective even with high administrative costs.





Remember that whichever causes you donate to could lead to tax deductions down the line. At the starting amounts suggested in the lower Generosity levels deductions likely would not be more significant than a standard deduction in which case you should stick with the standard deduction. For more information on tax deductions refer to this Charity Navigator page. Donating to causes in the end should be in the name of altruism, as Charity Navigator suggests, and in the interest of becoming a more generous person.

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